CF Montreal ..... (1)1 ..... Philadelphia Union ..... (0)2
CF Montreal is already playing catch-up in the Eastern Conference after failing to pick up even a solitary point in its first two games.
Yesterday Philadelphia became only the third visiting MLS club in history to win at The Big O. It was also only the second time Montreal has ever lost an MLS home opener, the previous occasion in 2014, when Seattle Sounders came, saw and conquered with goals by Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martens.
That year, 2014, proved to be the worst on MLS record for Montreal. Frank Klopas’ team finished dead last in the East. Let’s hope this season’s start and yesterday’s defeat are not omens.
They did take a fortuitous lead just past the half-hour, through Lappalainen’s wildly deflected shot which completely deceived Blake in the Philly goal.
But they weren’t able to capitalize. Without expecting miracles from recent arrival Kamara, he was particularly quiet, and with a dearth of Montreal attacking options available from the bench, Philadelphia weren’t exactly ‘all hands to the pump’ in repelling the home side’s forays forward.
Djordje Mihailovic however thought he had doubled his side’s lead four minutes after the restart. After slicing through the centre of the Union’s defence rather easily, the American finished with confidence. 2-0 Montreal... or so we thought.
The VAR and man in the middle, Drew Fisher, had other ideas though, pulling the scorer up for having fouled Carranza in initially possessing the ball.
Jim Curtin’s men wasted little time in rubbing salt into the Montreal wound. Within four minutes of Mihailovic’s disappointment it was all square. An untidy goal but a fine finish from the left boot of Bedoya. Johnston and Camacho struggled to dispossess Sergio Santos as he entered the box, the ball finally breaking to Camacho, who tried a short pass to Lappalainen.
Sometimes, even in these days of playing out from the back, it’s a good idea to simply clear the ball which neither Montreal man opted to do. Bedoya was the benefactor, easily dispossessing the Finn before beating Breza to his right.
The tables completely turned three minutes later. Carranza finding himself in too much space on the right, he used it well, sliding in a cross for Daniel Gazdag. The Hungarian international managed to get in between Camacho and Lappalainen to finish comfortably from 6 yards.
Naturally, coach Wilfried Nancy was far from enamoured by the manner in which goals were leaked.
“On the first goal, there’s some fumbling in the box. But the ball must get out of that zone quicker when you’re defending on actions like that.
On the second, we got caught on the back foot. From there, it’s a simple pass and a simple shot that led to the goal. There was a bad read on the play.”
Despite the harsh dismissal of Carranza in the 71st minute giving Montreal a possible lifeline, they rarely threatened Blake’s goal. Kamal Miller had one particularly good opportunity with about ten mins left, but failed to hit the target, heading Brault-Guillard’s cross wide from 8 yards.
Only 13,046 bothered turning up to watch this one; an average squad possessing limited firepower with several players missing, in an echoey stadium, not capturing local imaginations.
The narrative rolls onto Mexico City and a first-ever meeting with Cruz Azul in Wednesday night’s quarter-final, first-leg game in Champions League.
Coming back from the Azteca without suffering a third successive defeat will take some doing. Things don’t get much easier after that either with a trip to the Big Apple to face MLS Cup champions, New York City FC.
2022 seems already to be shaping up for a longish season, and we’re only just underway.
Then again, sometimes it’s when the chips are down that the Montreal XI bounce back to confound its critics. Let’s lean a little harder on optimism and hope that’s the case, although this particular writer won’t be holding his breath...